The game is over but the work never ends for NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl chairman Ali Farhang.
Last night’s game, won by Air Force over South Alabama 45-21, was the completion of a yearlong effort to get the most out of the Tucson and Southern Arizona communities to support the 15-month-old bowl.
The crowd of 33,868 at Arizona Stadium was markedly more than the 20,425 who showed up for last year’s game between Colorado State and Nevada. The gains made from last year, from the bowl’s participants to the tailgate festivities, was drastic.
Farhang is far from content in his mission to establish a better event next year and so on. Here is a Q & A that I had with him on the field last night a few minutes after the completion of the game:
Q: What did it take to establish the type of growth you had from last year?
A: There’s a few things. No. 1, we had a year instead of 90 days. So that was helpful. And it didn’t hurt to have the Air Force Academy here at all because there’s a lot of connections with our community. But I’ve got to tell you just like any good team, is it about the coaching? Yes. But it’s more about the players. And the people that are involved with the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl and the advisory committee and executive committee, we’ve met once a week every week since February of last year. That’s what it takes. So we have a lot of dedicated people. We have a lot of dedication. It’s all about making this event a great reflection of our community and having the community proud of this event, building a tradition and we have great people who are dedicated to that. When you’ve got that, it’s a recipe for success.”
Q: Over the next year, how would you like to see this grow and what steps do you have to take toward that?
A: People are going to hear about our tailgate this year and people are going to see what happened in our stadium and our attendance compared to other bowl games. All we need is the people in Tucson, Southern Arizona, (and) Sonora, Mexico, to understand this is their game. They all have a piece in this, so come and enjoy the festivities, come and enjoy each other and really support it because what they’re doing is supporting their community with the net proceeds going to charity. The connections we formed with the military, retired, reserves, active … first responders, teachers … we’re going to keep doing that because there are people who came to this game who have never been to a game in this stadium before. And that was with sponsored tickets, tickets that people from our community bought, not free tickets. I think that is a pretty good reflection of who we are as a people. Why shouldn’t we let everybody else know?
Q: Some have asked how do they watch the game on TV. What are your concerns with that?
A: This is the first bowl game ever that was broadcast on Twitter and Facebook. And then it was on the Campus Insiders web site, and then if you have Sling TV or Apple TV, all those, it was available. We were in more homes than any other bowl game around, maybe even the big ones. … You’re going to get better or you’re going to get worse. There’s no such thing as being the same. We didn’t do a good enough job communicating that this year, we’ll make sure to do that next year. Just keep building this and keep getting better.”